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"From the Pulpit" - December 3, 2023

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

"From the Pulpit" - reflections on the weekly texts from Pastor Greg at Living Lord Lutheran Church in Vero Beach, FL

Isaiah 64

O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,

  so that the mountains would quake at your presence—

2as when fire kindles brushwood

  and the fire causes water to boil—

 to make your name known to your adversaries,

  so that the nations might tremble at your presence!

3When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect,

  you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.

4From ages past no one has heard,

  no ear has perceived,

 no eye has seen any God besides you,

  who works for those who wait for him.

5You meet those who gladly do right,

  those who remember you in your ways.

 But you were angry, and we sinned;

  because you hid yourself we transgressed.

6We have all become like one who is unclean,

  and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth.

 We all fade like a leaf,

  and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

7There is no one who calls on your name,

  or attempts to take hold of you;

 for you have hidden your face from us,

  and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity.

8Yet, O Lord, you are our Father;

  we are the clay, and you are our potter;

  we are all the work of your hand.

9Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord,

  and do not remember iniquity forever.

  Now consider, we are all your people.

Mark 13:24-37

[Jesus said:] 24“In those days, after that suffering,  the sun will be darkened,   and the moon will not give its light, 25and the stars will be falling from heaven,   and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. 27Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. 28“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 32“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. 34It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 35Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, 36or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”

"The Potter and the Clay"

Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father, and the LORD Jesus Christ.

Here we are in the first Sunday of Advent. A time for waiting. For hope. Longing for something new. A time of anticipation. And aren't we all of these things, and more in our current world? A time of longing - longing for an end to war anywhere in the world. A time of anticipation - anticipation of something new to fill our airways, our screens - as we await some good news. Good news about anything! Even a little thing like cooler days. Can we be so bold as to ask for something really BIG? Like peace in Israel and Gaza? Or peace in Ukraine? Or peace in the many warring nations in Africa? Waiting for captives in Israel and Palestine to be freed. Waiting for captives anywhere to be released? A time of waiting - and boy do we hate to wait, right? Waiting for longer days. Waiting for good news? Anything - we'll take it.

Unfortunately, our readings for this first Sunday in Advent aren't any of these. We think that with the Christmas season upon us, with all the stores decorated in their holiday splendor, that at least in church, for Pete's sake, we'd hear the good news of a baby in a manger. Or the wisemen journeying afar to follow a star over Bethlehem. Or Mary and Joseph in a manger. But, not yet.

The prophet Isaiah, if we slow down to really read and hear his words, offers us almost a confession - a confession of the sins of his beloved Israel, of having turned their backs on God. You can almost hear in his words a confession to God that he knows Israel has messed up. He knows, just like a child who did something terrible and is now coming back to mom and dad - he or she knows they're "busted" - caught redhanded.

And in our gospel for Sunday, Jesus reminds his people, as he himself is about to be handed over and betrayed, that there is uncertainty in his and their future. Not even HE knows the hour or the day when all of the mess of the world will be turned upside down with the coming of God. So, they wait. They hope. They anticipate. And Jesus reminds them to be awake - to be active. To be the church, the synagogue, the mosque. The people.

Notice, if you will, that our gospel for this first Sunday in Advent starts at the 13th Chapter of Mark's gospel - just as he's about to be handed over to the authorities. The end is near for him. One would think that on the 1st Sunday in Advent, we'd the beginning of the Jesus story. Why not get right to it, as Mark does so well, by beginning at the beginning of his gospel? "The beginning of the good news..." Mark begins in Chapter 1. So, why do we have to begin this Christmas season with these "apocalyptic" texts? Good question.

My message for Sunday will come largely from our 1st reading - the Isaiah text. After all, if you read this text carefully, you'll hear a prayer. A prayer for forgiveness. A prayer for longing for God to look beyond the sins of a people, to bring healing. And don't we need to do both of these things these days - prayer, and hope. As I study Scripture, I say to myself that one need look no further than the bible to see and hear the horror stories of God's people - wars, violence, leadership that is corrupt, hatred among people and nations, to realize that there's nothing new under the sun. That people then, just like now, long for release from captivity - captivity to sin. Captivity to hatred. Captivity to war and fighting among people and nations. We even say every week something similar to this in our Confession when we say that "we are captive to sin and cannot free ourselves." I think maybe Advent, the time of anticipation and waiting, is as good a time as any to slow down and hear these words. To heed our need for a savior. To hope for something better in our future. To anticipate the coming of the One who can bear our burdens, and who can release us captives from the webs we weave.

So I invite you to read and read again this prayer/confession from the prophet Isaiah. You'll notice in the last two verses of this reading how he turns and gives thanks to God. "Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay - you are our (I love he uses "our" rather than "the" here) potter. We are the work of your hand." Yes, we have messed up our world. Yes, we need a Savior. Yes, we will wait. And yes, we will rejoice when that Savior comes among us. And it will be soon, and very soon. Amen.

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